Another reason for expanding U.S. 119

My good friend John Henson continues his push to four-lane U.S. 119. Here is a recent editorial in the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

My good friend John Henson continues his push to four-lane U.S. 119.   Here is a recent editorial in the Harlan Daily Enterprise.

Another reason for expanding U.S. 119

By JOHN HENSON - Managing Editor
Most of my arguments for expanding U.S. 119 to four lanes between Harlan and Pineville, or better yet, Cumberland and Pineville, have revolved around the economic benefits, because all the growing communities in eastern Kentucky have four-lane roads.

Kentucky State Police Det. Mike Cornett and Harlan County Rescue Squad Capt. Chris Allen brought up a more significant point in an interview on WYMT about another fatal crash on U.S. 119.

Allen said he had seen around 20 fatals on the same stretch of highway between Harlan and Pineville over the past several years.

The Harlan County Chamber of Commerce has been working hard on improving roads, and county government has joined the fight recently, but getting help from Frankfort has been difficult and assistance from Washington, D.C., has been all but non-existent.

WYMT’s Neil Middleton, a Harlan native, addressed U.S. 119 in an interview with Congressman Hal Rogers, who typically shifted the blame to state government.

WYMT followed up with another report earlier this week, noting that “drivers worry they are taking their lives in their own hands.”

"I have trouble just to get out of my driveway there's so much traffic through here. I've lived there 13 years, and you don't know the wrecks I've seen in front of my house," says Jimmy Haley on the television report.

State lawmakers approved several million dollars to widen a few sections to four lanes, but drivers in the television report say that's not enough.

"I think it would be really good if we had a four-lane highway all the way through, it really would," added Joyce Wilson.

Like so many other problems our county faces, our biggest enemy is often ourselves. You still have otherwise intelligent Harlan County residents who argue that 119 isn’t really that bad and four-lane roads aren’t that important.

It’s that kind of thinking that makes it so much easier for us to be ignored, because we all need to be fighting together.

Some will argue that KY 72 and KY 38 are greater needs, not looking at the big picture and the future of our county with often selfish and always short-sighted views.

It’s not that complicated, but I’ll go over it again. We must have a connection to the outside world for any hope of future economic improvements, and that’s why U.S. 119 and U.S. 421 must be our first priorities.

I’m sure you could have made a case for keeping U.S. 25 or U.S. 23 as two-lane roads because travelers through the area as well as residents could have “gotten by” with two lanes, but the leaders and citizens of the communities knew that getting by wasn’t good enough.
As always, thanks for making WYMT-TV your source for news and information.  We appreciate your trust.
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Neil Middleton
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